The MPAA rated The Hulk (2003) PG-13
for sci-fi action violence, some disturbing images, and brief
Hes big. Hes green. And hes mad. After
a hiatus from the screen, this 40-year-old Marvel comic book
hero is making a much-anticipated return to film.
Following months of teaser trailers and advertising blitzes,
is all the buildup worth it? Ticket buyers will ultimately
decide. But after 138 minutes (most of which was spent filling
in background material and waiting for Bruce Banner to get
mad enough to bulk up), the product unfortunately may fall
short for all but the most avid Hulk fans.
Searching for a breakthrough, Dr. Bruce Banner (Eric Bana)
is working on a high tech project at a Berkley lab. Using
nanomeds and gamma rays, he and fellow scientist Betty Ross
(Jennifer Connelly) are trying to perfect a technology that
will allow the body to heal itself in seconds. One day a glitch
in the gamma machine requires some fine-tuning. During the
procedure, an accident occurs and Bruce takes a full dose
of radiation while trying to save a co-worker (Kevin Rankin).
Suddenly the genetic experimentation his father (Nick Nolte)
performed on him years earlier is activated by the high-powered
waves. Now when tempers flare, it turns into a BIG deal.
In addition to working with Bruce in the lab, Bettys
romantic feelings for the emotionally distant
man play into the story. Convinced that something in his past
is deeply repressed, she wants to help him face his anguish.
She realizes his anger is likely caused by emotional pain
rather than physical and tries to intercede when the military,
under the direction of her father (Sam Elliott), launches
a full scale offensive assault on the ticked off mutant.
But with the unexpected appearance of Bruces father
and the money hungry involvement of a competitive lab owner
(Josh Lucas) trying to raise the ire of the altered scientist,
a calm approach to dealing with the tantrums is nearly impossible.
The computer generated Hulk is now bigger, can jump farther,
run faster and throw heavier objects than Lou Ferrigno (who
played the Hulk on the TV program and makes a cameo appearance
in this film) ever could. And its that amplification
of everything hulkish that makes this character harder to
relate to despite our common human battles with internal anger.
While most grades fall into the B category (B for a brief
bare bum scene is the only concern for sexual content), the
film has plenty of raging mutants, bullets, bombs, exploding
missiles and tank fire designed to disarm the experiment gone
wrong. Even more disturbing than the expected comic book violence
is a sideline story dealing with a gruesome stabbing that
pushes the violence quotient to the high end and garners the
film a PG-13 rating.
For parents, that rating may be the biggest issue, especially
when much of the pre-release hype seems intended to grab childrens
attention. For weeks before he paraded onto the screen, the
incredible Hulk has been showing up on licensed merchandise,
food products, and even a limited edition credit card. Hes
starred in commercials and print ads aimed at a variety of
age groups including highly imitative youngsters.
Whether this version of The Hulk proves to be bomb or blockbuster
may, in the end, depend largely on how well promoters have
sold this big green guy to the public.